Why is my bill estimated sometimes? And what does that mean?

Posted | January 26, 2018

Meter readers physically collect the energy-usage information needed to calculate your bill from each meter. (For perspective, we read more than 1 million meters manually each month, with the exact figure being a little more than 1.3 million.)

Occasionally, due to various circumstances, meter readers are unable to collect the necessary information, and we predict the amount of energy you would have used based on several factors, including usage from the previous year and current weather conditions.

1.  How can I tell if my bill is based off an actual, verified or estimated read?

In the Current Usage section of your bill, you will see “Estimated (E)” under Meter Reading Information:

Image of Current Usage section of a paper bill

You may also see these types of meter reads on your bill: 

  • Actual Reading/Regular Reading: Meter read by a Meter Reader. This is typically how your bill is calculated.
  • Verified Reading:  The meter was read a second time and verified by a meter reader while still physically at the meter.
  • Self- Read: You may read your own meter and then contact the company to have the reading entered in the system. Timing is important in this instance — a self-read is only accepted on our My Account website during the 3-day Meter Reading Window and only if it is comparable based on previous history and weather conditions.

2.  What are the common reasons why meters are estimated?
  • No access to meter – gate locked, aggressive animal that’s a safety risk, overgrown vegetation, etc.; this is the most common cause of repeated estimated bills.
  • Inclement weather – ice, snow, storms, etc.
  • Periodic Estimation – planned estimates may occur periodically.

3.  What if I think my estimate isn’t accurate?

Estimates may be inaccurate if usage patterns have changed a great deal. For example, a home was vacant during the same period last year and had minimal energy usage. The current customer living there this year receives an estimate that may be unrealistically low.

Following an estimated bill, an actual meter reading will be taken. The bill issued based on the actual reading will be for the difference between the actual reading and the previous estimated usage. In cases like this, the bill will “catch-up” the following month. Any usage difference between your “Estimated” read and Actual Reading is automatically adjusted the next time your meter is read by a meter reader. Only the energy actually consumed will appear on the next bill.

We strive to deliver accurate bills to our customers every month. However, if you feel you’ve received a bill that is not accurate, you can read your meter and compare that reading with the one on your bill. Learn more on how to read the meter.


4.  How are estimates calculated?

We start with the last actual reading, and we now know the current actual reading. The usage is divided differently over the two-month period because of the estimated reading but, the overall usage for the two month period is correct.

Example:

Month Days in Billing Period Reading Type Reading Usage
December Actual Read 12500
January 31 Estimated Read 14500 2000 kWh
February 28 Actual Read 15000 500 kWh

How can I tell if this is correct for January and February?

  • Add the total number of days in the billing period.
    • 31 days + 28 days = 59 days 
  • Add the total usage billed.
    • 2000 kWh + 500 kWh = 2,500 kWh 
  • Divide the total usage by the total number of days for a daily usage.
    • 2500 kWh usage divided by the 59 days to equal 42.37 kWh per day.

Result:

  • January — 42.37 kWh per day x 31 days in billing period to equal 1313 kWh (estimated at 687 kWh above average usage). Compare this to the daily usage for other billed periods.
  • February — 42.37 kWh per day x 28 days in billing period to equal 1186 kWh (instead of 500 kWh).